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Canucks vs.  Oilers: Corey Perry tops the list of playoff series villains
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Canucks vs. Oilers: Corey Perry tops the list of playoff series villains

“He’s trying to draw them in, piss them off and get them out of their comfort zone. I can do that, but it takes too much energy.’ — Nikita Zadorov on Corey Perry

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The game within the game never disappeared.

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It’s more than just a push and pull as testosterone levels rise in the NHL playoffs.

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It involves verbal taunts, illegal stick work, cheap shots, or accidentally reaching the net on purpose and tactfully making contact with the goalkeeper.

The Edmonton Oilers have a pair of villains in Corey Perry and Evander Kane. They will do everything they can to ruin your day, and with the Vancouver Canucks having 10 rookies in the playoffs, expect exuberance in the second round.

“This is the best time of the year,” Perry said Wednesday after a day of skating. “This is why we play the game, to be in these situations.”

However, it is the way Perry plays that will draw attention to the situation. His nickname is “The Worm” because he somehow escapes obvious transgressions.

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He has scored 50 goals, won a Stanley Cup, Hart Trophy and The Rocket Richard Trophy. But being a pest is what he does best, and the Oilers added that element in January to fill a void in the playoffs.

perry
Pierre-Luc Dubois #80 of the Los Angeles Kings skates the puck against Corey Perry #90 during the first period in Game Five of the First Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on May 1, 2024 in Edmonton. Photo by Codie McLachlan /Getty Images

On a list of top-10 NHL villains of the past decade, Perry ranked fourth behind Brad Marchand, Tom Wilson and Nazem Kadri, and ahead of Matthew Tkachuk, Ryan Reeves, Sam Bennett, Jacob Trouba, Jordan Binnington and PK Subban.

Perry has played for six teams. He was suspended four games for an elbow, and another four games for an illegal blow to the head. He also received five games for another elbow to the head.

His contract was terminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in November for “conduct unacceptable” to a safe workplace. Perry admitted to having problems with his mental health and alcohol, and his final hockey life seemed like a turbulent retrospective.

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He was fouled by a goalie in the second game of a domination of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2024 first round. It was costly as the Oilers lost 5-4 in overtime, but they recovered to advance in five matches.

In Perry’s world, mission accomplished. He gave the kings something to think about. Imagine what he’s thinking, knowing the Canucks have a young and inexperienced third-string stopper in Arturs Silovs – who has been spectacular – protected and the talk of the town?

Perry’s linear trajectory fits right in with the book of winning the psychological war by leaving the opposition distracted.

“It’s something I’ve always been involved in and it keeps me involved in the game,” said the 38-year-old third-line irritant. “It just gives me energy. If I don’t do that, I’m not being myself and I’m not playing the way I want to.

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“These are things I don’t think about all the time, but when you’re not 22 or 23, you have to adapt and change.”

That means preventing Silov’s puck tracking, crowding his crease, and initiating some level of contact to test and resolve this nerve.

“It’s a fine,” Perry added. “Everything you do, there’s a line you can’t cross, but you play that game within the game. You have to keep doing that. We know he (Silovs) was great in the first series.

‘We don’t know much about him, but we have looked a bit. He’s big, and if goalies can’t see the puck, that’s probably good for the team shooting pucks.”

That’s a nice way of saying: be careful.

As for Kane, 32, he is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. Blessed with speed and talent, he can be a difference maker or a distraction. He often takes out his frustration on the opposition, consistent with the frustration he often feels with every organization he skates for.

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Kane will take a direct route up the windshield to disrupt the Canucks’ breakaway and put Quinn Hughes in his contact cross. It gets him going.

Kane
Evander Kane #91 of the Edmonton Oilers is led off the ice after a fight with Andreas Englund #5 of the Los Angeles Kings during the third period of Game Three of the First Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Crypto.com Arena on 26 April. 2024 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Sean M. Haffey /Getty Images

In the opening round, the Vancouver native had ten dangerous shots to even the team lead. He also had three points (2-1) and 15 penalty minutes. He sat out late in the regular season and admitted to a sports hernia injury – isn’t that the area of ​​long-term injury relief? – and it only added to the ongoing drama.

As if that wasn’t enough, his late-season meltdown with Perry on the couch was caught on camera. It seemed like a huge parting of the ways, but Kane never thought about it.

“In the world we live in, everyone is very sensitive, safe and soft, for lack of a better term,” he said. “So, I think when guys – two experienced guys in particular – show a little bit of emotion, people feel uncomfortable. But I think he and I feel the least uncomfortable in such situations.”

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Which could make the Canucks uncomfortable.

Nikita Zadorov has his own take on the postseason. The hulking Canucks defenseman has 52 career games under his belt and knows what awaits him in the second round. There will be villains, like Perry.

“He tries to get under guys’ skin, pull them in, piss them off, take them out of their game and out of their comfort zone,” he said Wednesday. “For me that is possible, but I have the feeling that it wastes too much energy.

“I usually try to be physical within the rules. When you play 20 or 22 minutes and then confuse an entire team for an entire game – for seven games – you just run out of energy. But I’m not a fan of the cheap shot.”


NEXT GAME

Round 2, Game 2, Stanley Cup Playoffs

When where: Friday, 7 p.m., Rogers Arena

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TV: SN Pacific. Radio: Sportsnet 650

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